Wednesday, June 18, 2008

A Rare Perspective In Finance...

From an interview with John Stumpf, CEO of Wells Fargo.

On the sub-prime boom:

Stumpf: We never participated in some of the real exotic things that the industry and others participated in. For example: we never understood why it made sense to make someone a loan, a home mortgage with negative amortization. So you would owe more on the home later than what you started with. That didn't seem sensible to us. We don't do it in any other credit products, not in credit card, why would you do it on someone's home? Because you don't know what's going to happen in the future. You don't know what's going to happen to home values, so you owe more than what you start with some time later, or you underwrite somebody so they can pay a 'teaser rate' . . . part of the rate, and they can't afford the full rate. How can that possibly make sense? So as we saw, and we probably didn't see as early as we should have, but as you see 5-6 years of unprecedented appreciation, some time it is going to go down. So we started to trim back and thank goodness we didn't do a lot of those things, but here's the real secret . . . many companies not only did that for their portfolio, they also structured off balance sheet vehicles known as 'SIV's and CDO's and CLO's. I thought a SIV was a four-wheel drive; I had no idea what it was! And they put these products, and they leveraged their balance sheets with these off-balance sheets things, these vehicles that add NO value and now they're coming back on-balance sheet. And that's where the 380 billion dollars of losses have happened around the industry and we didn't participate in that.

On regrets about what is happening in finance:

Stumpf: I would say it this way. I feel badly anytime anyone from our industry does something that does not put the customer at the center of everything that they do. So it's for the benefit and for to help our customers. In fact, the first two lines in our vision is about helping customers succeed financially and earning all of their business. We feel what our customers feel. It helps us not at all to put a customer into a loan, into a product, into a home that they cannot afford. They lose, we lose. So when our customers grow and benefit and succeed, we grow and benefit and succeed. So if anybody that doesn't do that, have that as the primary motivation of their business model, I think is not serving our industry well and is not serving customers well.

And much more in the interview.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

That famous comment "there are fewer bankers than banks..." comes to mind after reading this post. This guy sounds like a "banker" though.